Firms put ceiling on ambitions of black managers

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The Independent Online
White female executives have to put up with a "glass ceiling" at work, but Afro-Caribbean managers are continually hitting their heads against a "cement roof" and employers are doing little or nothing about it.

While white middle-class women face prejudice from their male colleagues, "considerably greater disadvantage" is suffered by managers of West Indian extraction even in Britain's biggest companies, according to a study published today by four leading organisations in the equal opportunities field.

The report's conclusion risks being labelled as politically incorrect - rarely are the difficulties faced by different groups of people compared in such a way to the potential disadvantage of one of them. But independent consultants working for organisations including the African and Caribbean Finance Forum, remarked that while companies were prepared to reveal how many women they employed and at what level, they often failed to disclose similar statistics for Afro-Caribbeans. "It was very noticeable that employers had given a higher priority to equality for women than to equality for ethnic minorities."

Using a new analysis of the 1991 Census, the researchers found that the proportion of black people in managerial positions did not exceed half a per cent in any industrial sector.

Such a low representation could not be attributed to inadequate skills. Some 36 per cent of Afro-Caribbeans have qualifications compared with just 31 per cent of whites. The credentials of black people also tended to be more vocational which employers are thought to prefer, the reports points out.

The researchers found that black people were even under-represented in the management of organisations in public transport and the health service where they form a disproportionately large part of the workforce.